The lawsuit suggests that Baltimore’s under-performing education system has created a “school-to-prison pipeline.”
Civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump has filed a lawsuit against Baltimore, asking that the city’s public schools be administered by the courts.
According to The Baltimore Sun, Crump is representing Baltimore City parents Jovani and Shawnda Patterson, who filed a claim against the city and its public schools system in January.
In their complaint, the Pattersons claimed that both Baltimore and Baltimore Public Schools effectively defrauded taxpayers by failing to provide an acceptable education to students.
Scott Marder, another attorney representing the couple, said that the Pattersons’ lawsuit is unique, insofar as its claim go beyond alleged violations of civil and constitutional rights.
“This lawsuit is about the system and its performance and how it continues to fail our children,” Crump said in a media conference. “It goes to the crux of the matter that educational injustice leads ultimately to racial injustice, because it puts our Black and Brown children, especially, on a fast track to the school-to-prison pipeline.”
The lawsuit broadly alleges that Baltimore’s public schools system offers “no benefit” to city residents, and that it “completely fails to perform its most important function.”
The Patterns claim that the local education system has a record of poor academic performance, as well as a “pattern” of enrollment and grading scandals.
Marder noted that a recent Maryland state audit found that Baltimore schools had changed more than 12,500 students’ grades from “failing” to “passing” without any apparent reason or rationale.
“You don’t graduate kids who can’t read and write,” Marder said. “You don’t pass people from one grade to another when they haven’t met the requirements to do that.”
Crump—who has represented a significant number of high-profile civil rights plaintiffs, including the families of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor—said he first learned of the lawsuit last year.
Crump said that he decided to lend his support to the case after understanding the scope of Baltimore Public Schools’ alleged rot and corruption.
“I think you can kill people in many ways,” Crump said. “You can kill them with a racist criminal justice system. You can kill them by them not having adequate education. These slow deaths are what we’re focused on today.”
The lawsuit asks the court to impose judicial oversight of the Baltimore public schools system.
Earlier this week, an attorney for Baltimore Public Schools said that the system plans to file a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
“City Schools has a pending motion to dismiss the Pattersons’ lawsuit based on clear, legal grounds,” school attorneys wrote. “Our motion papers are publicly accessible. We remain steadfastly dedicated to providing a quality education to all students. The plaintiffs’ lawsuit ignores that there is a robust local, state, and federal infrastructure to handle these types of claims. This matter of law will be decided in a court of law.”